Retirement is a time we should be able to look forward to. It’s intended to be a time of rest, relaxation, and enjoying life after years of hard work.
However, there are some pitfalls that could derail that plan – like health issues and healthcare costs. Models estimate that a couple retiring at age 65 will need between $197,000 and $285,000 for healthcare expenses alone. And most Americans have barely that amount saved for their retirement.
One of the biggest health issues for older Americans is Metabolic Syndrome (MetS.) This relatively unknown condition affects 44 percent of people over 50 years of age in the US.
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
Metabolic Syndrome is a disorder of the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. When that happens, it creates imbalances and deficiencies that negatively affect the way the body functions at the cellular level.
While you may not have heard of Metabolic Syndrome, you probably are quite familiar with five factors of Metabolic Syndrome:
- High blood sugar
- Elevated blood pressure
- High triglycerides
- Abnormal cholesterol levels
- Being overweight, particularly excess fat around the waist.
If you have just one of these factors, you’re considered to have a metabolic disorder. This means you also have an increased risk of a serious health condition, such as cardiovascular disease. When you have three or more of these factors, it is commonly referred to as Metabolic Syndrome and the risk of a serious health condition increases even more.
5 Things to Do to Optimize Wellness
Here are five things you can control as you age in order to improve your health, vitality and longevity:
- Maintain Your Blood Sugar in the Normal Range
The target for blood sugar should be a fasting blood glucose level of 107 mg/dl or less.
- Maintain Normal Blood Pressure
If blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg, the top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle. This is called systolic pressure. The bottom number refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. This is called diastolic pressure.
The American Heart Association defines a normal blood pressure as less than 120/80. Elevated blood pressure ranges between 120/80 and 129/80, and high blood pressure is 130/80 and higher.
- Keep Your Triglycerides Below 150 mg/dl
Triglycerides are considered within a normal range when they are 150 mg/dl or lower.
- Manage Your “Good” and “Bad” Cholesterol Levels
HDL “good” cholesterol is considered normal when it is 40 mg/dl or higher for a male and 50 mg/dl or higher for a female.
According to Medical News Today, LDL “bad” cholesterol levels should be less than 100 mg/dL. Levels of 100 to 129 mg/dL are acceptable for people with no health issues but may be of more concern for those with heart disease or heart disease risk factors. A reading of 130 to 159 mg/dL is borderline high and 160 to 189 mg/dL is high.
- If overweight, reduce your weight, and particularly your waist measurement
An indicator of Metabolic Syndrome is a waist circumference of more than 40” for a male and 35” for a female.
Visceral fat is the fat that is stored in the abdominal cavity and it’s associated with numerous metabolic abnormalities, such as excessive insulin in the blood, high blood sugar or glucose, type 2 diabetes, high triglycerides, abnormal lipid levels and inflammation.
So, what can you do to keep these 5 factors in the normal range as you age?
Interestingly, these 5 factors all stem from a very common metabolic disorder, called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and can’t use glucose from your blood for energy. To make up for it, your pancreas makes more insulin. Over time, your blood sugar levels go up and this can start a cascade of health issues.
By addressing insulin resistance in the body, you can positively impact all 5 factors and increase your health and longevity.
A high carbohydrate diet is not the diet that our bodies evolved with. Genetically, our bodies are designed to respond to nutrition from meat, fat and plants. However, one of the reasons humans have been successful in adapting to changing environments is because the human body can also use carbohydrates to survive on an emergency basis.
For about the last 80 years the consumption of simple carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods in the average diet has skyrocketed. Our bodies have increasingly been using carbohydrates for energy and that has led to increased insulin resistance and weight gain.
The best diet to counter insulin resistance and excess fat focuses on gaining nutrition from meats, plants and healthy fats, and reduces the amount of carbohydrates eaten.
Try eating foods known to help your particular health issue. For example, foods known to support normal blood pressure include celery, dark, leafy greens, and potassium-rich foods, such as bananas, fresh broccoli, avocado, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
For tackling inflammation, try polyphenol-rich foods: Polyphenols are natural plant compounds. High-polyphenol diets can improve different markers of heart health, including blood pressure. High-polyphenol foods are olives and olive oil, berries and other fruits, vegetables, soy, dark chocolate, nuts, and beans.
Have fun incorporating a variety of fresh produce in your diet.
Anyone who has Insulin Resistance will most likely have a nutrient deficiency. The answer to this is to provide the body with the correct type and amounts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients through nutrient-rich foods and supplementation.
Nutritional supplements allow you to give the body nutrition without any calories. It is virtually impossible to consume all the nutrition your body needs and still support fat loss.
Supplements should be natural, plant-based nutrition with ingredients that are specifically selected to address metabolic disorders. They must provide targeted nutrition at the cellular level and simultaneously support all of the body’s systems.
Exercise will help support your dietary and nutritional efforts to reduce insulin resistance.
Suggested exercise is:
- Low-intensity cardio workouts such as walking, cycling, jogging, recreational sports, or swimming. Walking just 30 minutes a day can be beneficial to overall health.
- Strength training exercises such as weightlifting (fewer reps with lighter weights).
If you are unable to do these types of exercise, investigate more gentle approaches, such as Tai Chi, that are excellent for older people.
You may want to speak with your doctor before beginning any exercise program or making any major changes to your diet.
Reduce your sodium intake
Know how much sodium you are consuming by reading the nutrition facts of the foods you buy. You’ll be surprised how much sodium is in common foods. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day—that’s equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt.
Drink less alcohol
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Keep in mind, that drinking alcohol in any quantity may raise your blood pressure and blood sugar so less is more when it comes to alcohol.
Learn to manage stress
Chronic stress can cause your heart rate to increase and your blood vessels to constrict. Fitting more “downtime” into your schedule, doing some different activities, or having a change of scenery by visiting a new location can be helpful.
If you have any of the 5 factors of Metabolic Syndrome – elevated blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol or triglycerides, excess fat around the waist – don’t despair. You can take actions that will positively affect your metabolism and help return these 5 factors to a normal range. The outlook is good for people with Metabolic Syndrome if the 5 factors are managed. Make these changes part of your lifestyle to optimize your health and bring more enjoyment to your retirement years.